Life has a funny way of bitin' you in the ass.
The thought bought a faint smile to Lizzie's lips as she leant on the porch railing of the Greene Family Farm. She'd sworn twelve years ago, when she'd packed her bags and left her parents that she'd never return to the rural outskirts of Georgia- it wasn't for her, not anymore. Not only had she broke her vow, she also believed that she would die here, back in the desolate countryside that she longed to escape so much.
It's your own stupid fault, she thought, reaching up and pulling the band out her hair, allowing her raven locks to cascade over her shoulders. If you hadn't been so damn noble, you'd still be in Florida... Her thoughts trailed off. Would she still be in Florida? If so, what would she be doing? Working? That was unlikely! Everyone was dead now, or worse... They'd come back.
Even though the sun shone down on her, she shuddered. The thought of those... Those things out there scared her half to death. But you're not dead, not yet, she reminded herself, you've gotta good will to live girl, it's kept you goin' so far and it'll keep you goin' further if you let it. She pulled her hair back up into a ponytail again, it's thickness making her head feel too hot and heavy in the sun- she'd learnt that you needed to keep your wits about you now, it was the difference between being a survivor and being a... A zombie, she thought.
That thought made her smile too, more ironically this time though, and she stretched her arms out before her, taking a moment to study the tattooed sleeve on her right arm before looking somewhat disappointingly at her unfinished half sleeve on her left- no chance that would be done any time soon.
She turned around, bending slightly to rest her arms on the railing. She straightened briefly to pull her shorts up slightly and rearrange her tank-top, not wanting to cause any scene to alarm her hosts, before resuming her position and letting her thoughts drift again.
She didn't know why she insisted on standing guard like this. Since she'd arrived on the farm, everything had been marginally quiet- it was as though the place had been untouched, the living weren't banging the doors down to get in and hide and the dead kept their distance, unaware of the survivors housed inside. As grateful as she was for the quiet, she knew that getting used to it could be dangerous. All it would take was one of those things stumbling upon their safe haven and getting in... If she wasn't alert and ready, then she'd be dead.
Dead is bad, almost as bad as still bein' alive when the world has gone to shit but nowhere near as bad as still walkin' around, tryin' to eat everyone you see. Boy, had she seen some sights as she made the trip back home. At first it had scared her shitless, then it began to eat away at her- she'd spend nights awake wondering if she could have saved the couple she saw fleeing from their home, only to run into a group of the creatures that proceeded to eat them alive... What about the children she'd seen on a school bus, staring out the windows, screaming as those things pulled the doors off the hinges to board? That had kept her awake for days. Eventually though, she had become somewhat desensitised to it, accepting it as the way of things- you either killed them or got killed by them, the choice was yours.
But then you came home and everythin' changed. Nothin' could have prepared you for what you had to face, what you had to do... She kicked the railing suddenly, the thunk of her foot against the wood dispelling the thoughts from her mind. The second, louder thunk of her axe hitting the decking fully snapped her back to the present. She leaned down and picked it up, resting it on the railing before her and examining it. It had been her weapon of choice since she left Florida- her first stop had been a fire station, she didn't know why, maybe she had been trying to get help, but it had been covered in blood and empty. The glass case holding the axe was intact and she'd taken it upon herself to liberate it from its confinement.
Even though she was a small woman- standing just less than five and a half feet tall –she'd always been tough. Leaving home at sixteen had seen to that, she'd had to learn to look out for herself quickly as the world could be a big, scary place for a teenager away from home. After she'd picked up a bar job at eighteen, she'd learnt the ways of brawling- watching the patrons had mostly given her an idea of how to fight fast and win quickly and that first night one of the guys had come on to her a little heavy... Well, she'd put those skills to the test and come out on top. Nobody fucks with Lizzie, she'd remembered them all saying that, you fuck with her and she fucks you up! Still, as much as reputation may have proceeded her in the bar and surrounding areas, it didn't mean much to the world nowadays so a weapon had been necessary and, such as most things she put her hand to, she'd learnt quickly how to use it and she had become attached to the point of naming it, personifying it so she didn't feel so alone in the world. She'd be damned if she'd admit that to anyone though.
Giving a Goddamn axe a name? Maybe you are as crazy as your folks always said you were, she rolled her eyes at that thought, maybe they were right all along and that's the reason you...
A shout broke her from her thoughts and she looked up. She could see a figure approaching through the connecting field. She squinted against the light, holding her hand to her eyes so she could see better, trying to get a good look at who it was- it wasn't one of them, it was moving too fast for that, and the only person out right now was Otis but this person was definitely a lot smaller and faster than the large man.
Weighing up her options quickly, she vaulted over the railing and began to walk towards the fence- still shielding her eyes to see well. They were still shouting but she wasn't sure if they were calling for help or attention, and all she could figure was that it was a man. A man who sounds like he's goin' wild, she thought as she approached cautiously. She came to an abrupt halt when her eyes suddenly adjusted and she saw the blood.
He had blood all over his torso. As she watched, still rooted to the spot, she realised he was carrying something. Usually Otis would carry the spoils of his hunting back but this bundle didn't look big enough to be a deer, it was more the size of... Oh my God, she thought, dropping the axe to the dirt as she registered what she was hearing, oh my God.
"Help! My boy! Somebody help!" The shouts came to her clear as day now that she'd realised the man was carrying the body of a child.
Her brain reengaged, breaking her out of her shock, and her feet began to move. Picking up the pace, Lizzie ran towards the stranger.
"Hey!" She called, standing on the first rung of the fence to give her extra height, waving her arms so she could be seen, "over here!"
As the man approached, she saw the raw emotion washing over him- he was breathing heavily with tear stains streaking his cheeks, the kid was definitely his own.
"Please," he gasped, locking her with a gaze full of pain and desperation, "you have to help him."
"What happened?" She asked, looking down to the boy.
"He got shot," the man began to explain until he saw her eyebrows shoot up, "it was an accident, we were told there was a doctor here… Are you a doctor?"
"No, no, it's not me but I can go an' fetch him for you," she knew the boy needed medical attention fast. She held her arms out, "pass him over to me."
The man looked at her warily and hugged the boy to his chest. She understood his protectiveness but she wasn't in the mood to humor him- this was serious.
"Look, you won't be able to climb over while you hold him," she said hurriedly, dropping her arms to her side, "I can hold him while you climb, then have him back while I run an' get Hershel. I promise you I will not drop him."
He regarded her for a few seconds, his gaze locking with hers, and then he nodded slowly, moving as close to the fence as he could before he started to shift the boys weight over to Lizzie's outstretched arms. She took hold of him, cradling him as she'd cradled her younger sister on the first night after she'd returned to her parents' house to discover…
Not now Lizzie, she scolded herself as she stepped away from the fence, careful to keep a tight hold of the injured child, you've got more important things to do than dwell on the past.
She looked down at the boy as his father climbed the fence and, briefly, he opened his eyes. He seemed to look up at her but she had a feeling he wasn't really seeing anything- he'd be in far too much pain to register where he was or who he was with. After a second or two, he moaned and slipped back into the blackness. She felt her heart begin to break.
"Is he okay?" The man asked, apparently having heard the noise.
"He came around for a second," she nodded, handing him back over carefully, "he's gone back under now; it's probably for the best."
"The doctor…?" The man began.
"I'm on it," she nodded, wiping her bloody hands down the front of her thighs, "head towards the house, I'll get him ready for you."
"Thank you, thank you so much." The man said, looking as though he was about to burst into tears again.
Lizzie wasted no more time talking. She turned on her heel and ran as hard as she could back up to the house. She didn't so much open the door as run through it, calling Hershel's name as she did so.
"What in God's name are you shouting about?" Hershel asked, appearing from the kitchen.
"There's a man with a boy, Otis shot him by accident and he's really hurt, there's blood everywhere Hershel, please you gotta help him!" She'd garbled it all out in one long, breathless sentence and Hershel looked at her, dumbfounded.
"Get my things and take them into the kitchen, I'll go see…" Lizzie didn't wait to hear what else he had to say, she lunged at the stairs and went for Hershel's room and his medicine bag. She could hear him barking orders to Patricia, Otis' wife, downstairs.
As soon as she reached the bottom of the stairs she saw the man entering the front door. She motioned for him to follow her and ran through the door with him hot on her heels.
"Hershel…!" She began but was swiftly cut off by the man behind her.
"Please, you have to help my boy!" He cried.
Lizzie stood and watched in silence as Hershel sprung into action with Patricia at his side. She knew that she hadn't been here for too long but she couldn't bring herself to leave, she was the one who found them and felt like it was her duty to stay close by.
"What can I do?" She asked, feeling suddenly left out and somewhat useless.
"Nothing, go outside and wait for Otis." Hershel said, barely looking up at her.
"But I can…" She began to protest but was cut short.
"There's nothing you can do, go outside." Hershel cut her off flatly.
Lizzie scowled but decided not to pursue an argument- now wasn't the time –so she chose to leave quietly. Before she stepped out the door, a hand on her wrist pulled her around. She found herself face to face with the man again.
"Thank you," he said quietly, squeezing her wrist slightly, "thank you for all you've done…" He trailed off, not knowing what to call her.
"Lizzie," she said quickly, her big green eyes lighting up with her smile, "my name's Lizzie."
"Rick," he said, smiling weakly back at her, "I'm sorry we haven't met under better circumstances."
"Get back to your boy," she smiled, reaching for his shoulder with her free hand and giving it a slight, what she hoped was supportive, squeeze, "he'll need you when he wakes up."
Rick nodded at her, squeezing her wrist again before he turned away.
With her duty being apparently done, Lizzie left the kitchen. She stepped back into the sunshine, closing the door behind her and set out across the lawn to retrieve her axe- she'd almost forgotten about it in the chaos.
As she stood, brushing the blade down and slipping it into the self-fashioned holster she'd made to strap to her back, she saw two more figures rushing across the field- one was undoubtedly Otis and the other must be one of Rick's companions.
An' I thought it was going to be another boring day! She thought with a smile before heading back to her perch on the porch.